Masala Chai

Chai tea is a term commonly used to refer to what is more accurately known as masala chai. The word “chai” means tea in the Hindi language, so translated "chai tea" literally means "tea tea." In English, masala chai translates to "mixed-spice tea."

The Hindi word chai finds an older ancestry in the Chinese word chá, also meaning tea. The similarity between the word for tea in both Hindi and Chinese is not accidental and will be discussed later in this article.

The majority of chai tea is made from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica, also called Indian tea.

Overview.

The first section outlines the flavour, preparation and health benefits of chai. The next section discusses chai recommendations. The third section is an in-depth examination of masala chai, covering its health benefits and the history of chai in India. The fourth and final section summarizes all the key points discussed and specifies how to get featured on this page. 

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Masala Chai.

Flavour of Masala Chai. 

The taste of chai masala is strong, spicy, sweet, and full-bodied. Ginger, cardamom and cinnamon are staples in masala chai, giving it an earthy, peppery taste. The flavour of chai changes based on what other ingredients are added like pepper, cloves, peppercorns, star anise and fennel.

How To Brew Masala Chai.

The traditional way to brew chai is to combine milk, black tea, spices and fresh ingredients in a pot and cook on a low boil for some time. 

Health Benefits of Masala Chai. 

Ginger, cardamom and cinnamon, the three staple ingredients in chai, each have specific health benefits. Chai can reduce nausea, improve your immune system and improve blood pressure and heart health.

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

For those of us who strive to make excellent chai masala outside of India, I recommend using Sticky Chai from Bird & Blend as a base. Then I recommend adding fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves, lots of cardamom pods, black pepper, whole milk, rock sugar and a generous helping of dry chai masala, a spice often found at most Indian specialty stores.

A Comprehensive Discussion of Masala Chai.

Health Benefits of Masala Chai.

The health benefits of masala chai are mainly attributable to the spices and fresh ingredients traditionally added to the drink.

Ginger.

Ginger has been shown to improve age-related neurological disorders (Choi, 2018), and can be beneficial in managing obesity (Attari, 2017). Ginger has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) (Barbalata, 2019), and help in the management of diabetes (Khandouzi, 2015). Scientific evidence also supports ginger's traditional use for treating nausea (Schmid, 1994).

Cinnamon.

Cinnamon contains high amounts of manganese, iron, dietary fibre, and calcium. It also contains many components that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and anticancer effects (Hariri, 2016). Cinnamon also has antimicrobial (Ooi, 2006) and antibacterial (Mandal, 2011) qualities. Recent research has examined the positive effects of cinnamon in Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, arthritis, arteriosclerosis (Hariri, 2016) and inflammation (Tuzcu, 2017)

Cardamon.

Research shows cardamom has cardioprotective qualities, making it beneficial for heart health (Nagashree, 2017). Another study suggests that cardamom also has antibacterial properties (Salah, 2012).

Pepper. 

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is among the world's most popular spices (Zhu, 2018). Black pepper has antioxidant, gastro-protective properties (Butt, 2013) and antimicrobial properties (Dorman, 2000).

Cloves.

Cloves also have antibacterial properties (Ajiboye, 2016) (Mandal, 2011).

Fennel.

Fennel may have anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties (Ghazanfarpour, 2017), and many studies have examined the health benefits fennel can have in post-menopausal women (Khadivzadeh, 2018) (Ghazanfarpour, 2018).

Nutmeg.

Research shows nutmeg is beneficial in preserving skeletal muscle mass (Pratiwi, 2018), and can protect against some liver damage (Yang, 2018). Research has also verified nutmeg's positive antioxidant, antimicrobial and central nervous system effects (Abourashed, 2016).

The History of Chai in India.

The British played a significant role in India and its relationship with tea. The focus British colonists placed on building tea plantations were an essential step in beginning mass scale tea production in India. In addition, the role the British East India company played in securing England as a large import market also helped establish the direction for India's future trade relationships.

Historically, black tea consumption within India was relatively low. However, a promotional campaign by the British owned Indian Tea Association in the early 20th century sparked a significant change in India's domestic tea consumption. During this campaign, the Indian Tea Association actively encouraged factories, textile mills and mines to provide tea breaks for their workers. Around the same time, the Indian Tea Association also supported numerous chai wallahs during the expansion of India's railway system, with the specific objective of cultivating tea demand within India's domestic market. In India, the term "wallah" denotes a person involved with a specific activity or business: a chai wallah is a person who sells tea.

Throughout this corporate-backed campaign, the English way of drinking tea was heavily promoted - as a beverage consumed with small amounts of milk and sugar. However, despite these marketing efforts, independent tea vendors in India defined tea on their terms; locals added traditional spices to the drink, and chai masala was born.

The Indian Tea Association opposed the independent vendors' tendency to add spices and lots of milk to their tea. At first glance, the reason might be seen solely as cultural imperialism, but that misses the deeper motive - profit. By adding milk and spices to the drink, vendors and individuals reduced the number of tea leaves required per liquid volume, decreasing tea purchases as an expense, and by extension, reducing company profits.

The marketing and promotional efforts of the Indian Tea Association firmly inserted tea drinking into India's culture. However, if the British had fully succeeded in their marketing efforts, the world would likely have been deprived of masala chai. India's tea-drinking culture ultimately reflects the traditions and tastes of India's people, blended with the British. What makes the history of masala chai compelling is that it demonstrates the interplay between commerce and culture.

Summary.

Masala chai is an accurate term for what many people refer to as chai tea. Masala chai finds its roots in India, although variations of spiced tea are consumed in many cultures across the world.

There is no exact recipe for preparing chai. Nevertheless, there are a set of ingredients commonly used in masala chai, including milk, sugar, black tea, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. Other ingredients that are often added include nutmeg, pepper, cloves, fennel and star anise. Each of these spices and herbs has health benefits associated with them, making traditional masala chai a great overall health boost.

Masala chai has a rich history that speaks to the interplay of commerce and culture. Britain's colonization of India, along with the subsequent increase in global trade, played an essential role in laying the foundation for the mass production and export of tea. While British colonization actively inserted "tea drinking" into India's culture, the spices included in masala chai are a direct credit to the taste and culture of the people of India.

You can participate by sending a video of how you and your culture traditionally prepare chai. The best videos sent to weare@theteatribe.com get featured on The Tea Tribe website.